You’ve heard the song, “Burn baby burn, disco inferno!” but probably never realized that it was about your body’s inflammatory response to chronic nutrition related threats. “Satisfaction (uhu hu hu) came in the chain reaction (burnin’) I couldn’t get enough, (till I had to self-destroy) so I had to self destruct.” Suddenly ‘Disco Inferno’ by The Trammps is no longer quite so amusing. By pushing our body to react to diet related problems, we trigger a continuous inflammatory response that ultimately weakens our immune system and causes the proliferation of disease, resulting, as the song so ominously puts it, in our self-destruction. What triggers this massive inflammatory response? How exactly does it damage our body? And most importantly, what can we do about it? Read on as The Trammps and I seek to elucidate the dangers and remedies to this lethal condition.

“To mass fires, yes! One hundred stories high, People gettin’ loose y’all gettin’ down on the roof – Do you hear?” As the song reveals, we do indeed build fires in our system whenever the body is injured or encounters an infection. Part of the immune system’s response to such threats is to send out inflammatory cells to attack and destroy the offenders and protect the healthy cells. However, when the body is faced with numerous simultaneous threats, your immune system  enters a state of chronic inflammation, which can lead to disease as the body changes its regular responses. The ‘massing of those fires’ can lead to diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and heart disease.

The inflammatory response is the body’s reaction to injury or toxins. Take heart disease as an example. Cholesterol particles trapped in the artery wall become oxidized, and are then engulfed by inflammatory cells, leading to the formation of plaque, which can eventually rupture and cause a heart attack. And where does this cholesterol come from? Your diet.

“Folks were screamin’ – out of control.” Indeed. The typical  American diet is ridiculously high in red meat, Omega 6 fats, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup, all of which can provoke inflammation by providing chemical pathways that cause a chronic inflammatory state in the body. Arthritis and periodontal disease also lead to inflammation and can result in heart disease, while obesity can cause a general low-grade chronic inflammation. Adipose, or fat cells, can release inflammatory proteins into the blood stream, while obesity is correlated with the presence of C-reactive protein (CRP), one of the markers of inflammation that is produced by your liver.

“Everybody’s goin’ strong (uhu hu hu), And that is when my spark got hot.” You can go strong too if you follow certain basic principles to avoid chronic inflammation. The first and easiest way to reverse or prevent such a state is to change your diet so that it excludes processed foods and follows something more akin to the Mediterranean Diet (high in fruit, veggies, and whole grains and low in lean meat, fish, olive oil and wine.)Also, consume nuts and beans, which both have anti-inflammatory effects. Finally, and equally crucial, get moving! “Burn baby burn! Disco inferno!” Whether you’re dancing, jumping, skipping, running, lifting weights or just shaking your groove thang, exercise can help lower the count of inflammatory proteins.

And remember: “Up above my head I hear music in the air – I hear music! That makes me know there’s (somebody) a party somewhere.”